Mid-South #5 Page #2
The Birds had invaded the Mid-South area a few weeks earlier and quickly worked their way to a Title shot. The match was a back and forth affair, and was pretty even until the referee got knocked down. At this point, Bob Sweetan charged the ring in his referee's shirt to take over refereeing the bout. Needless to say, Watts & Robley were less than thrilled by this. Buck Robley immediately started brawling with Sweetan. While this was going on, the Freebirds double teamed Watts and knocked him out. So, when the original ref came to, he counted Watts down and The Fabulous Freebirds were the new Mid-South Tag-Team Champs.
Hayes and Gordy were a wild young team, but even then you could see the beginning of greatness. They managed to turn back several challenges to the titles, until Buck Robley teamed up with a raw new player who's real name was Sylvester Ritter, but he went on to superstardom as The Junkyard Dog. After several attempts, JYD & Buck Robley managed to take the belts from the Birds in April of 1980. This only intensified the war between the two teams. After Michael Hayes suffered a "neck injury", former U.S. Tag Team Champ, Buddy Roberts, was brought in to work with Gordy, and the classic Freebird line-up of the 1980's was set. The reason for the quotation marks around neck injury is that according to Bill Watts' shoot interview, when they brought in the Freebirds, he only wanted Gordy. But, Gordy wouldn't come without Hayes, so he brought them in together. Watts said that he never felt Hayes was any good in the ring, but he was an incredible talker. He said that after a few months, Buck Robley, who was booking for Watts at the time, wanted to trade the Birds to Florida for two other wrestlers. Watts said he vetoed that idea, but said they were going to go out and bring in someone who could work with Gordy, and just let Hayes handle the talking. Roberts became a logical choice since he wasn't involved in any other angles at the time, and he had a wealth of tag team experience from working with Jerry Brown as the original Hollywood Blondes. And that kids is how Buddy Roberts became a Freebird.
What happened next was one of the truly legendary angles in the history of Mid-South Wrestling…and really all of wrestling in general. JYD & Robley were set to face off with Gordy & Roberts in June of 1980 at the Louisiana Superdome. Earlier in the evening, there had been a match between Paul Orndorff and Ken Mantell. Mantell had been cutting peoples' hair after winning a match and saying that was his way of "branding" them. He had butchered Orndorff's hair, and needless to say, Orndorff was steamed. So, the stipulation of the match between them said that if Orndorff won, he could use hair remover cream to make Mantell bald. Orndorff won and Mantell wore boxing headgear for awhile to cover his baldness. The hair cream, however, wasn't quite finished for the night. It seems that the Tag Title match had a stipulation added to it. If The Junkyard Dog & Buck Robley lost, the Freebirds would use the hair remover on Robley. The match was a wild affair with lots of double and triple teaming from the Freebirds. Finally, the Freebirds managed to get the pin and Roberts & Gordy this time were the combination to win the gold. However, after the Birds won, Michael Hayes entered the ring with the hair remover cream. As he went to spread the cream on Robley, JYD grabbed Hayes, and Hayes threw the cream in JYD's eyes. This turned the heat up to insane levels, as JYD was temporarily "blinded" by the hair remover cream. For the next several weeks, fans were treated to vignettes involving a "blind" Dog being led around by Bill Watts, Ted DiBiase, Buck Robley, and others. The Dog told incredibly sad stories of how he was unable to see his baby daughter, and how he might never see again. There was even talk of an incident in which Michael Hayes was taunting a "blind" JYD, and a fan jumped in the ring and pulled a gun on Hayes. It was an incredibly emotional angle. And it lived for years afterwards. This was really the thing that made the Freebirds reputation. And from that point forward, wherever these guys were, they were always in the thick of things. One other quick note on this angle. Buck Robley, who was the Dog's partner and a face in this angle, later redid this whole scenario in the Southwest Wrestling area. This time, Robley was a heel and he blinded Bruiser Brody. I guess Bill Watts was right when he used to say, "What goes around, comes around."
The Dog, blind and all, finally managed to get some revenge on Michael Hayes when he took on Hayes in a "dog collar" match. JYD wore goggles and the two men were chained together, so Hayes couldn't get away from the Dog. And, after the Dog's sight had returned, he and Robley teamed up with a young Terry Orndorff to go after the Birds. Finally, in September of 1980, with Robley acting as their outside equalizer against the interference of Michael Hayes, The Junkyard Dog & Terry Orndorff beat Gordy & Roberts for the titles. At this point, the Freebirds packed up and headed to Georgia where they had an incredible national run, and even managed to feud with a couple of familiar faces in JYD and Ted DiBiase. JYD & Orndorff had an extremely short run as champs, as in November of 1980, the massive team of Ernie Ladd & Leroy Brown managed to take the belts. They not only defeated the Dog and Orndorff; they injured Terry and forced him out of wrestling for awhile.
Ladd & Brown were a great team. They were both so big and imposing, they made excellent "bully" type heels. Ladd was also the Louisiana State Heavyweight Champ during this time. He and Brown were far and away the top heels in the Mid-South area at this time. The two bullies feuded with almost everyone. Jim Garvin, Jake Roberts and Kerry Von Erich all had beefs with the tag champs, and Paul Orndorff returned looking for a little revenge against Ernie and Leroy for injuring his baby brother. But, far and away the most constant thorn in the big men's sides was The Junkyard Dog. Dog kept chasing Ladd and Brown. He teamed for a time with newcomer, Don Diamond, but they were unable to beat the giant heels for the belts. JYD then tried a new partner. In January of 1981, the incredibly unorthodox team of The Junkyard Dog & Killer Karl Kox clicked well enough to defeat Ladd & Brown. But, a mere three days later, Ladd & Brown came back to not only win the titles again, but also injure Kox and leave the Dog without a partner again.
With Kox out, JYD got a partner who was every bit as tough and unpredictable as Kox in none other than "Captain Redneck" Dick Murdoch. Murdoch and Kox were old friends and older enemies. Their feud from the mid-Seventies was legendary in the Mid-South area, and the two shared similar styles as well as attitudes. The Dog and Murdoch worked well together. And on March 30, 1981, The Junkyard Dog & Dick Murdoch defeated Ladd & Brown for the belts. But, there was a problem. Bill Watts had been the special referee for that bout, and the Mid-South Executive Committee ruled that Watts was an unacceptable referee because of his past history with Ernie Ladd. So, the titles were declared vacant, and a tournament was set for the big Easter Superdome Spectacular show. A lot of great teams entered the tournament, including Dusty Rhodes and André the Giant. But the two teams that reached the finals were JYD & Murdoch, and the masked duo of The Super Destroyer & The Grappler. In an extremely controversial final match, The Super Destroyer & The Grappler defeated Dick Murdoch & The Junkyard Dog with the help of a mysterious third masked man who came off the top rope on JYD and allowed Super D and The Grappler to get the win.
After further investigation by Mid-South officials, it was discovered that the mysterious third masked man's mask had been found. And that the blood in the mask matched the blood type of none other than Ernie Ladd. Matched up with the masked man's size, this seemed pretty strong proof that it was Ladd under the mask. So, JYD & Murdoch were given a return match inside a steel cage. After a heated encounter, Dick Murdoch & The Junkyard Dog had finally become the Mid-South Tag Team Champions.
The Wild Samoans make the scene, and we'll see the debut of two of the greatest teams of the 1980's.
Back to Mid-South Main